Following their amazing performance at MAGFest X, the EARTHBOUND PAPAS gracefully held a Q&A panel the following morning that we were able to attend. Suffice to say, we learned tons of things about some of our favorite composers, including lighter facts about their personal lives (all of EBPs apparentlyÂ loveÂ steak and beer, would rather ride chocobos than cars, and listen to the Doors) andÂ their subsequent experiences as songwriters, as members in a band, and at Square Enix.
An official MAGFest video of the EBPs panel has been embedded above. Although we’ve managed to cover the entire transcription of the EARTHBOUND PAPAS panel below for instant gratification, the band answers almost every question you’ve been dying to know about video game music composition, dealing with issues of what Final Fantasy VIII song you should play to propose to your girlfriend to more serious matters of dealing with the evolution of gaming hardware and the reality behind dealing with composition as a career.
By the way, have you heard about the EARTHBOUND PAPAS remix/arrange contest? If not, you should keep informed to win a chance to be a guest performer on the next EBP album!
ANNOUNCER: Well, first off, let’s give a round of applause from these guys coming all the way to MAGFest. Applause and whistling.
HANYUDA: Ah, good morning everyone. My name is Arata Hanyuda, the drummer of the EARTHBOUND PAPAS. Thank you for coming.
HIROTA: Did you enjoy yesterday’s show? Round of applause and cheers. Thank you. I’m the bass player, Yoshitaka Hirota.
UEMATSU: Good morning, I’m Nobuo Uematsu. Thank you very much for coming, we really enjoyed last night’s show. Thank you very much.
NARITA: Good morning. I’m Tsutomu Narita, keyboard and guitars.
OKAMIYA: Hello? Hello. Laughs. You all rock, no, no, you rock. My name Michio Okamiya, guitar.
TRANSLATOR: Okay, my name is Shida. I’ll be translating this panel. So, do you guys have any questions now? I don’t know how we’re gonna do this, but let’s line you guys up in front of the microphone and have you guys ask questions.
INTERVIEWER, roughly translated: What are you favorite foods?
HANYUDA: Hamburger. Hamburger and steak.
HIROTA: Sushi and steak.
UEMATSU: I like ramen and steak.
NARITA: I like pasta and steak.
OKAMIYA: Sandwiches and steak.
INTERVIEWER: We all know Nobuo likes Sam Adams, so what’s your favorite drinks in Japan? Type and brand if you could, please.
OKAMIYA: Abashiri Beer. And steak.
NARITA: Green soda.
UEMATSU: You mean, Japanese brand?
UEMATSU: Abashiri beer is very good, you know?
HIROTA: Um, miso soup. And steak.
HANYUDA: Gravy sauce on steak.
INTERVIEWER: I just want to ask some of your favorite compositions that you made that may not be the fan favorites that we might really know that much that may be personal favorites?
UEMATSU: “Slam Shuffle”.Â Applause.
INTERVIEWER: As some of us know, the EARTHBOUND PAPAS CDs that you brought along are completely sold out and I was just wondering if there’s any chance they might be put up on American sites, like Amazon.com and the like for other people to purchase?
TRANSLATOR: Okay, you can buy it from Dog Ear Records website and he can tell you more about that, he’s from Dog Ear Records. Points at representative off-stage.
INTERVIEWER: Oh hi. This goes for all of you, or mainly Nobuo. When you come up with music, how do you know when the scene’s going to fit when you make the music in your games?
UETMATSU, trans.: You kind of have to do it when you’re so close to the deadline. Smiles and nods head.
INTERVIEWER: Can I get a hug?
UEMATSU stands up and places arms in hugging motion. INTEVIEWER runs up and gives Uematsu, the rest of the members and translator a hug. Laughs and applause heard all around.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much for the great concert last night. My question is for composers who have done both animation and video game music. What are some of the challenges of animation versus video games in composing music?
UEMATSU, trans.: Probably the biggest difference is, well, first of all, the technology is so advanced now, so, sound quality-wise it’s not that different. But for anime music, even if you compose a long piece, they may use a second of it or two seconds of it.Â And for video games, you don’t know how long the player is going to spend on certain stages so you kind of have to worry about the loops.
INTERVIEWER: I’m just wondering what other projects you’ve enjoyed doing in your time before this span? What ones were your favorite to work on? Anything ranging from games to performances.
TRANSLATOR: You mean the whole band?
UEMATSU, trans.: I have worked on so many projects but nothing in particular stands out because I love them all. Particularly speaking, Fantasy Life which is a 3DS game which is coming out pretty soon, I composed a bunch of different styles of genres and composed about seventy to eighty different pieces of music. It was a really different side of me and I enjoyed it quite a lot.
HANYUDA, trans.: When I worked at Square Enix on Final Fantasy XI, we did a lot of fan festivals and that was probably the most enjoyable thing.
HIROTA, trans.: Well, I can’t speak the title, but there’s a PS Vita game that I worked on and I have tended to like recent games more. And also, playing in the rock band that I really love.
TRANSLATOR: I’m sure he’s talking about EARTHBOUND PAPAS.
NARITA, trans.: I enjoy all the works that I am involved with, but particularly Green Saga, that’s the TV animation that I worked with Uematsu-san. That was the first thing that I worked on with him and that was probably the most memorable thing.
OKAMIYA, trans.: You may not know this, but I worked on this software on DS that’s a KORG DS-10 and also the Black Mages.
INTERVIEWER: Good morning. You guys had an awesome concert last night. I want to know what your favorite moment was or a memorable moment while you were recording for your new band.
NARITA, trans.: There’s this song called “Homecoming” on the EARTHBOUND PAPAS CD. It’s the last song. And when we recorded the percussion loop, we got together at Uematsu-san’s place and we surrounded the microphone and just played a bunch of instruments all together. I remember that quite strongly.
UEMATSU, trans.: We recorded a lot of stuff in my home studio and there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about if you do that: there’s no fee for renting the studio so you can keep doing it for as many hours as possible, but I probably spent more time for smoking and drinking. Laughter and applause ensues.
OKAMIYA, trans.: For Black Mages, everyone brought their arrangements and we played exactly from the sheet music. But this time, we kind of brought in rough ideas to the studio and we worked together as a band and it felt really like a band.
HIROTA, trans.: There’s a song called “Bo-Kon-Ho-Ko” on EARTHBOUND PAPAS album and there’s a place that I do rap. Murmuring laughter. I recorded and dubbed two different voices, a regular voice and also a lower, registered voice. And in the studio, I would be talking in the lower voice and everyone would make fun of me.
HANYUDA, trans.: The girl who worked at the mastering studio…. she was really cute.
INTERVIEWER: I guess just had a question for everyone who had worked at Square [Enix] in the past… What was it like working with the whole team and working with Sakaguchi-san [former president of Square Enix] and in the end, when the game is finished, coming together and seeing the fruition of all your hard work?
UEMATSU, trans.: It’s been twenty-five years but the best experience was the company was really, really small when I joined. There were only about twenty people and Sakaguchi was only a college kid back then… But because of the success of the Final Fantasy series, the company kept growing and to see that happening was the best experience.
HIROTA, trans.: I remember exchanging letter openings with the staff and sound effects teams. When I went to the refreshing room, Uematsu-san would be talking to other staff members and if I listened too closely, they were thinking about jokes to tell to people. I remember that strongly.
HANYUDA, trans.: I appreciate Square Enix for having me meet Uematsu-san and also the video games. Pause. And also meeting my wife at Square Enix.
OKAMIYA, trans.: The first I worked on was Final Fantasy IV, and I initially joined the company as a PR person and Sakaguchi-san told me not to play music as much, just to focus on promotion. But Sakaguchi-san also plays the guitar and his effectors are, I have his effectors and it says Hironobu on it, his name. And I have a twelve-string guitar, which was owned by him that he got from Uematsu-san.
INTERVIEWER: Good morning, first I’d like to say thank you for answering our questions this morning. My question is directed to Nobuo: you’ve worked with a lot of different technology through the evolution of video games from Nintendo to today. Each system has its own sound, so my question is what technology was your favorite to work with?
UEMATSU, trans.: I’m not really particular about the hardware and technology. I think what moves people is the melody, great melody, so I don’t really care about the hardware or what hardware I work on.
INTERVIEWER: Also, one more thing: earlier this morning, my friend dropped his wallet in the lobby and someone on your team picked it up and returned it so he’d like to thank you.
HANYUDA raises his hand and nods. Loud applause is heard.
INTERVIEWER: Good morning. First of all, thank you for a wonderful concert last night. It was an honor to listen to you all play. My question is a little similar to the last one. For those of you who worked on composing for Famicom and Super Famicom, and also composed for the modern systems, did you find that you had to be more creative to work within the limitations of the older hardware or do you find now that you can really express your full creativity now that there’s, you know, one compressed audio in the new systems?
UEMATSU, trans.: The ones with the limitations, you can be more creative. When you work under limitations, you have to look at certain things and you really have to be creative and you think a lot. Now that you don’t have any limitations, you don’t really do as much work.
INTERVIEWER: Hola. Tu eres… Okay, well, you describe your music and your songs as being your children. He describes his music and his melodies as his children. Well, I would like to show your my firstborn. My first child. Plays guitar.
HANYUDA gets up and begins playing drums. When INTERVIEWER stops, members of EARTHBOUND PAPAS clap.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. I guess for question, it would be: If you were a ‘summon’, if you had to choose to be one ‘summon’, which ‘summon’ would you choose?
HANYUDA: Ifrit! Noticeable surprised gasps and cheers.
UEMATSU: Shiva, me too.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you for being here, so happy to be able to talk to you. I want to ask my girlfriend to marry to me and I want the tone with a piece of music from Final Fantasy VIII. I was wondering what piece I should use.
UEMATSU: “Eyes On Me”.
HANYUDA, jokingly: “Don’t Be Afraid”. Band members clap in unison.
NARITA: “Maybe I’m a Lion”.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you coming out to Washington D.C. to play for us last night. This is a question for everyone — if you could be a creature from the entire Final Fantasy series as a pet, which creature would you pick and why?
NARITA: Moogle. [Trans.] Because a moogle is comical.
UEMATSU, trans.: You know, the vehicles are really bad for the environment so I would ride on a chocobo.
HIROTA, trans.: He would like to take a walk with a Cerberus.
HANYUDA: I’d like to rave with Knights of the Round. Laughter.
OKAMIYA: Gilgamesh. Cheers heard. [Trans.] I’d like to have a younger brother like Gilgamesh.
INTERVIEWER: You guys have written for Final Fantasy for a long time and you’ve done a whole bunch of similar situations for compositions; you have a battle situation, a boss situation, a world map. How do you avoid writing the same melodic ideas, or having a varied piece every time composed for similar situations?
UEMATSU, trans.: I feel like I’m making kind of similar things all the time. Is that okay? Giggling heard in audience.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much for the excellent concert last night. I’m just curious, what are some of the highlights of MAGFest that you’re going to tell people why we’re so awesome? [This is] for everyone.
TRANSLATOR: Square Enix… or….
INTERVIEWER: No, just in general. Like the concert last night.
UEMATSU, trans.: They paid for the meals.
HIROTA, trans.: So much beer.
HANYUDA, trans.: The nice environment. View and everything. The lady who came in last night for the session, she said she was going to Kushima to volunteer for nine months and I was very, very impressed by that.
NARITA, trans.: I love this place, it’s beautiful architecture, the hall is great, the hotel is great, and the lighting show downstairs… Ogawa-san there ran down as soon as he saw it and took a bunch of pictures.
OKAMIYA, trans.: I don’t see these community-based events in Japan that much and I would love to come here next year, too. Please give some hands to the staff, to the people who worked on the concert. They worked very hard. Applause all around the room.
INTERVIEWER: Hi, my question is for Nobuo. How you were approached to compose the opera from [Final Fantasy] VI and what was the inspiration behind it?
UEMATSU, trans.: I had never written anything like that before and Sakaguchi-san said like “let’s do something fun, something bombastic” so I wrote my first opera piece. As soon as the game came out, Koichi Sugiyama from Dragon Quest, he called me up and he knows for opera — he’s a trained composer — and he said, “why didn’t you talking to me before you wrote it?” Laughter.
INTERVIEWER: I was a piano player when I was a kid and came home after playing Final Fantasy VI and told my mom, “I think there’s a video game that has Beethoven in it”. I didn’t know at the time that it was you. You’ve been a huge inspiration on my life, I’m now a composer. I just want to know, was there ever a turning point in your life that gave you as much inspiration as you’ve given me?
UEMATSU, trans.: I had a lot of LPs back home when I was a kid, but they’re mostly classical music. I didn’t really think about doing music for a living but when I started listening to rock and pop jams, I felt like “maybe I can do this”. That was my turning point.
INTERVIEWER: First of all, thank you so much for coming here, I’ve been in love with the Final Fantasy series for a long time now and it’s just a great honor to be able to meet you and hear you perform live, which was a fantastic performance last night. I was wondering, what’s kind of the process for the creation of character themes? How do you draw inspiration to really capture the essence of Final Fantasy characters in music?
UEMATSU, trans.: I read the dialogues quite a lot before I compose anything, and I think about what kind of voice the character has and what kind of character or personality he has, then I make it.
INTERVIEWER: I’m very nervous. First off, I’d like to thank you for last night and staying late to sign those autographs. That was very gracious of you. We all appreciate that so very much. My question for you is: is there any American music in particular that you like or that has inspired you? For everyone.
UEMATSU, trans.: I probably know about American music more than any one of you here. Laughter. I grew up listening to a lot of American music because I wanted to be, decided to be a composer when I was in middle school and I thought I’d obtain Japanese music from somewhere else so I didn’t listen to and shut out a lot of Japanese music. I’d spend a lot of time listening to Top 40s Billboard hits.
INTERVIEWER: What about the Doors?
UEMATSU, trans.: We listen to Doors and I love it.
HANYUDA: Metallica. Laughter. Especially “Fight Fire with Fire”. Do you know that?Â And “Battery”.
HIROTA: Nine Inch Nails. Cheers heard. [Trans.] I was inspired more by American rock music than Japanese music.
NARITA, trans.: I listened to quite a lot of classical music and film scores as well as rock music like Metallica. My dream was listening to New York Phil and Chicago Symphony here in the U.S., but another dream came true before that, which is performing to you as a rock band.
OKAMIYA, trans.: They said what I wanted to say. Laughs. Was going to name some professional wrestlers. I love funk music. Other than what Uematsu-san said, I listen to Parliament, they’re from D.C., and I listen to Trouble Funk and James Brown. And Michael Jackson. Applause.
INTERVIEWER: I wanted to thank you, first of all like everyone else, for coming in and performing for us last night. My question for you is: how did you come around forming the name EARTHBOUND PAPAS?
UEMATSU, trans.: I don’t really know, but there’s an album called Earthbound by King Crimson and if I just named to band Earthbound, it just sounds like we’re a progressive band… So Earthbound would be kind of a hardcore, progressive rock band so I put PAPAS so it just sounds like middle-aged men playing rock music. Laughter.
INTERVIEWER: Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Uematsu-san. I have two questions. First one is for the whole band.Â For example, I know Hirota-san has arranged and written for tribute albums that came out this year and I’m wondering besides the music, what are some other video game soundtracks that you’d like to arrange professionally or to perform as a band?
TRANSLATOR, talking of HIROTA: He said that doesn’t exist. Band members laugh. So I was told.
HIROTA, trans.: I’ve known Mitsuda for quite some time since I was a teenager and I worked with him again on Shadow Hearts and I’d love to do some work on his music.
UEMATSU, trans.: Nothing negative, but I’m not really interested in arranging music. If you’re talking about the human body, I make the heart — the core of the human body and arranging is like changing, so I’m not really going to take any arranging jobs. I’m more interested in composing.
NARITA, trans.: Â I worked with Uematsu-san quiteÂ a lot, but I’m a composer myself so I really do enjoy the composing part. I’ve worked on this game called Unchained Blades Rexx and I really enjoyed composing for that game, but as far as arranging goes, arranging Uematsu-san’s music is the best.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, and real quick, Uematsu-san, since we’re both progressive fans and I took a raincheck in Baltimore, can you put me in the Full Nelson really quick?
UEMATSU stands up and obliges INTERVIEWER’s request. Cheers heard.
INTERVIEWER: Good morning. I have no regret in beating a dead horse by saying thank you very much for making the trip down here. We hope you’ll be coming back down to MAGFest in the near future. My question is for all you: what would you say your mantras are, or just words to live by, things to believe? What would you say would be your personal words to live by?
UEMATSU, trans.: The most important thing is you do it without thinking, without worrying about things.
HANYUDA: Take it easy and have fun.
HIROTA, trans.: There’s a Japanese old song saying that, “A moment is like a dream, so be passionate about the moment.”
NARITA, trans.: Just like Hanyuda-san said, enjoy your life.
OKAMIYA: Don’t take fear! Laughter and applause.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve been listening to the Black Mages since high school, so thank you. Please come back to MAGFest in the future. Clearly, this community is built in large part by arrangement in video game music, fan reinterpretations of the original work. What sorts of fan works have you heard and which ones do you enjoy?
UEMATSU, trans.: “Dancing Mad” arrangement of the band that went before us. I had never thought of playing that song with three guitars and it was so, so wonderful.
HIROTA, trans.: Me too, “Dancing Mad” from yesterday.
HANYUDA, trans.: I saw a guy who posted a video on YouTube, he’s playing one of the Black Mages songs and I thought he was better than me.
NARITA, trans.: The band the day before yesterday, they played “Those Who Fight Further” and I really like that, and also “Dancing Mad”, I ran around like a kid and took a bunch of photos. Laughter.
OKAMIYA, trans.: We didn’t have that much time to listen to bandsÂ and I was I had more time but same, “Those Who Fight Further” and “Dancing Mad”.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve been really inspired by anime and game music, specifically Japanese video game music so much so that I have started a show. I was wondering maybe what inspired or attracted you to the industry? I’d also be honored to give you a CD.
UEMATSU, trans.: I don’t know what to answer to this question because a bunch of people asked about inspiration quite a lot and I get inspired by anything, my iTunes has about 80 gigabytes of music. I listen to classical, jazz, rock, and it’s a shuffle, so that’s where I get inspiration from. I’d love to get your CD.
End of panel.